Date of Award

Spring 2022

Degree Type




Director of Thesis

Jennifer Vendemia

First Reader

Sterling Watson

Second Reader

Sterling Watson


Spanking has been an acceptable form of punishment for centuries. Previously thought as effective, studies have now shown the detriments of spanking, including increased aggression, drug abuse, and stress levels. This exploratory study sought to observe the stress levels of adults who experienced childhood spankings. It was hypothesized that those who experienced frequent spankings would report increased anxiety, reduced socialization, and decreased emotional regulation in times of stress. It was also hypothesized that those who reported being spanked would report lower emotional and physical health regulation and higher mental health diagnosis. Fifty-four participants were composed of undergraduate and graduate students at the University of South Carolina. While many factors were considered, including race, class, and family dynamic, the ultimate focus of the study was on the frequency and severity of spanking and the combination of spanking with other punishments. Statistical analysis was conducted using the statistics package available in MSE Analysis ToolPak (Excel 2021). The potential confound of anxiety related to Covid-19 was evaluated. Extreme positive significance was found between the severity of spanking and seeking validation from authority figures, partners, and peers. Those frequently spanked were more likely to endorse and use spanking, and there was a significant difference in response from those who experienced combined punishments than either those who experienced frequent or harsh spankings-those who experienced combined spankings self-reported suspecting developmental or depressive disorders and stronger desire and willingness to seek counseling. The research supported the hypotheses by showing positive correlations between frequency and severity of spankings and diagnosed developmental and depressive disorders. Further study would focus on the long-term effects of combined punishments.

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